"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Friday, May 28, 2010

38 Days And Counting

On April 20, a BP oil rig more than a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico exploded, and as of today, 38 days later, oil continues to spew into the Gulf. This already looks certain to rank as one of the worst man-made disasters in our history, and we still don't know how long it will be till the flow of oil is stopped. The environmental impact is likely to be severe, with hundreds of miles of beaches damaged and up to 40% of our country's highly sensitive wetlands (mainly in Louisiana) in jeopardy of being destroyed. Many types of wildlife are already being affected, with the worst yet to come. The spill will have a severe economic impact on the region, with great harm done to the fishing & seafood industries as well as the substantial tourism industry of the gulf region. Worst of all, hurricane season is beginning. A large hurricane could dump the oil on our cities or move it up the Atlantic coast. This is a tragic and heartbreaking situation for our entire country, and especially for the residents of Louisiana who have already suffered so much from Hurricane Katrina in recent years. We need to remember them in our prayers.

Who is responsible for this? I don't think we need Obama and his administration to remind us on an almost daily basis that it's BP's fault. I think we all know that this oil spill was caused by a failure of BP's oil rig, and that BP is responsible for figuring out how to stop the spill and paying for the cleanup of the Gulf. It is my understanding that while the overall oil industry has an excellent safety record over the past 40 years, BP's safety record over the last decade or so has been less than impressive. Apparently they failed to perform environmental impact studies, failed to have a viable disaster plan in place, and chose to forego replacing old equipment and parts in order to save on costs and pad their profits. But there's certainly no reason to think that BP is dragging their feet now. They know their profitability and reputation -- and even their survival as a company -- depend on stopping this oil spill as quickly as possible. They are doing everything in their power -- but it's not so easy when there is no prior plan in place and you are dealing with an oil gusher that is more than a mile underwater.

But BP is not the only one responsible for this. I believe the federal government is just as responsible -- if not more so. First of all, the government allowed this situation to happen in the first place. The government allowed BP to drill in the Gulf without getting the permits required by existing law for drilling that could harm endangered species. Obama's Interior Department gave BP an environmental exemption back in April 2009. The government did not require BP to have a plan in place to deal with a potential spill. Safety warnings about drilling in the Gulf were repeatedly ignored - the National Oceanic and Atmospherica Administration sent a letter to Obama back in September 2009 warning that the Minerals Management Service was underestimating the risks and impact of an oil spill. I know Republicans have a reputation for being cozy with big oil, but all of the above failures occurred on Obama's watch, and Obama was the number one recipient of BP political contributions. My readers know that I'm not a fan of big government regulation of private industry. In general, I think the government regulates far too much and greatly oversteps its proper bounds. But I do think the government has a legitimate right to regulate activities that pose significant safety and environmental hazards to our country, especially when it is occurring on federal property (as this did). When you have a drilling operation thousands of feet below the water which causes oil to gush out automatically, it should be obvious that a malfunction could have a severe impact. Obama is now calling for more regulations and inspections of offshore oil drilling. That makes no sense, because adequate safety regulations were already in place and were ignored.

Secondly, the government's response to this disaster has been horrible. A plan to deal with an oil spill like this has been in place since 1994. The plan, created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, called for barriers called fire booms to collect the oil offshore and then burn it off. If this plan had been followed, up to 95% of the oil might have been contained. The problem was that the government was so woefully unprepared they didn't have a single fire boom on hand at the time the oil spill first occurred. Obama's administration acted as though they didn't have to do anything -- it was BP's fault and they would fix it. This spill was in federal waters and the government bears responsibility too. It is inexcusable that it has been more than a month and the Obama administration has done virtually nothing. Obama didn't even give a speech about this crisis until 9 days after the spill started, and it took him 12 days to make his first visit to the region (and only visit until political pressure forced his second visit today). Louisiana officials asked for permission from the federal government to build temporary sand barriers to keep the oil from creeping into fragile wetlands on May 11th. More than two weeks later, they still have not gotten a response (the feds are conducting a "review"). The governor of Louisiana is furious, and rightly so. The EPA has dithered on BP's use of toxic dispersants underwater to prevent oil slicks -- first they approved them, then changed their mind after BP had already released them into the water. Even to this day, federal officials have still not decisively acted to put boats and equipment into the Gulf waters to try to contain and burn off the oil. Local officials were forced to do a lot of it, with some boats and equipment going unused. The White House has been quick to point fingers at the oil companies, but has been painfully slow at making any decisions or showing any leadership. They have a lot to say about future regulation, but nothing to say about what they're doing NOW to stop the spill. Throughout most of his press conference yesterday, he appeared cool and detached instead of angry and involved. He couldn't even tell reporters whether or not Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Minerals Management Service, had resigned or was fired, and he couldn't even bring himself to thank the hundreds of people working around the clock to contain the oil spill.

Finally, it's important to understand what this says about reliance on government. Time and time again, the federal government has proved its inefficiency and inability. Our country's history over the past 80 years is littered with government failures. Spending and earmarks are out of control, the national debt is skyrocketing, Social Security and Medicare are broke, our borders are a war zone, and our bureaucracy seems unable to rouse itself to deal with major crises. Our government does few things well and has taken on way too much already. Yet, in the midst of all these government failures, we have a president and a Congress that keep wanting to give government more and more power -- over health care, banks, auto companies, student loans, the financial industry, the energy industry, etc, etc. This Gulf crisis is yet another powerful reminder of why our Constitution specifically limited the powers of the federal government, and why we do well to avoid putting our trust in said government.

So what needs to be done going forward?

1. All resources should be focused on stopping the spill and containing the oil in the Gulf. The government and BP need to work together and avoid blame-shifting until after this important work is done.

2. Care needs to be taken to ensure existing laws and regulations are strictly followed. Oil companies should not be able to get exemptions from required regulations or permits, and both the government and the oil companies should have contingency plans ready in case of disaster.

3. This spill should not be used as justification to stop drilling - either on land or offshore. We need oil, and if we don't produce it ourselves we will have to import more from OPEC countries. Overall, the oil industry has a pretty good safety record, and one spill should not lead us to ban all drilling. The solution is not to stop drilling, but rather to ensure that it is done safely. Let's remember that environmentalist legislation is partly responsible for this spill. Part of the reason we are drilling more than 5,000 feet below sea level in the Gulf is because the environmentalists have managed to pass legislation excluding the Pacific coast, most of the Atlantic coast, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. Drilling on land and just offshore is far safer than deep water drilling. If the BP oil rig had been in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for example, the leak would have been stopped within hours (and there would have been virtually no people or animals around to be affected even if it hadn't).

4. Apparently some members of Congress have proposed legislation that would quadruple the taxes on oil companies to make them "pay for the mess they caused." This is extremely misguided. First, it is unfair to make all oil companies pay for BP's mistake. Second, this tax will just be passed on to consumers in the form of higher gas prices. If oil companies are unable to pass it on to consumers in the form of higher prices, they will probably be forced to lay off employees or stop hiring, which obviously damaged our economy. Additional taxes are not a solution.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unfit to Lead, Part 2

This chilling article by Charles Krauthammer, a brilliant foreign policy observer, shows the far-ranging effects that Obama's foreign policy is having:

The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world. That picture — a defiant, triumphant “take that” to Uncle Sam — is a crushing verdict on the Obama foreign policy. It demonstrates how rising powers, traditional American allies, having watched this administration in action, have decided that there’s no cost to lining up with America’s enemies and no profit in lining up with a U.S. president given to apologies and appeasement.

Krauthammer goes on to list a large number of actions and decisions the Obama Administration has made over the past year and a half that project weakness to our foes and indifference (or worse) to our allies. He closes the article with this:

This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat — accepting, ratifying, and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum. Nor is this retreat by inadvertence. This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle. It’s the perfect fulfillment of Obama’s adopted Third World narrative of American misdeeds, disrespect, and domination, from which he has come to redeem us and the world. Hence his foundational declaration at the U.N. General Assembly last September that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation” (guess who’s been the dominant nation for the last two decades?) and his dismissal of any “world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another.” (NATO? The West?) Given Obama’s policies and principles, Turkey and Brazil are acting rationally. Why not give cover to Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions? As the U.S. retreats in the face of Iran, China, Russia, and Venezuela, why not hedge your bets? There’s nothing to fear from Obama and everything to gain by ingratiating yourself with America’s rising adversaries. After all, they actually believe in helping one’s friends and punishing one’s enemies.

Actions have consequences, and Obama's anti-American, anti-democratic actions will doubtless have very bitter consequences for our country. Maybe not tomorrow or next week or next month, but those consequences will come. It took many years for Reagan to undo the damage done to the reputation of the U.S. abroad by Jimmy Carter's foreign policy, and Obama is worse than Carter. It has to be said: Obama is a terrible president who is completely unqualified and unfit to be the leader of the free world. He knows little and cares nothing for our country's history and values. He and his allies in Congress pose a grave threat to American liberties, due to their foreign and domestic policies. If voters do not remove Obama and his congressional allies from office over the next two elections, I believe the harm to our country will be permanent and irreparable.

Unfit to Lead

I've been catching up on the news that I missed while on vacation, and I am once again struck by how unfit Obama is to lead this great country and what an embarrassment his allies in Congess are. Here are the pieces of news that caught my attention:

1. Obama gave a press conference with Mexican president Felipe Calderon at the White House last week. Essentially, Obama and Calderon took turns bashing Arizona for its anti-illegal immigration law. As William Bennett & Seth Leibsohn put it, "Allowing the running down of a part of the United States by the head of a foreign government, at the White House, standing next to the president — who not only didn’t challenge him, but encouraged him — is a foreign- and domestic-policy catastrophe." In addition to the disgrace of our President publicly taking Mexico's side against his own country, he also allowed Calderon to badly misrepresent the Arizona law and gave him a free pass regarding Mexico's immigration policy, which is far more harsh, restrictive, and inhumane than Arizona's.

2. After the press conference with Obama, Calderon spoke before a joint session of Congress, which was presided over by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Joe Biden. Once again Calderon ripped into Arizona for its new illegal immigration law (which mirrors our country's federal law). Not only was Calderon not booed off the stage, but he got a standing ovation from nearly two-thirds of the assembled audience -- including virtually all the Democrats in Congress and everyone from Obama's administration including his cabinet. As Andrew McCarthy of National Review says, "Make no mistake: In the Congress of the United States on Thursday, it was a hostile Mexico against a besieged Arizona. Mexico won in a rout."

3. John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, met with reporters last week and told them that his agency will not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona authorities. Great. Now the federal government is going to refuse to enforce their own laws and discriminate against one specific U.S. state in the process.

4. Obama gave a few remarks at the signing ceremony for the Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act. Daniel Pearl was the Jewish American who was kidnapped and decapitated on video by radical Muslims in Pakistan back in 2002. Here's what Obama had to say about this: "“Obviously, the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is.” Yeah, one of those moments that captured the world's imagination, just like Princess Di's wedding. This kind of pathetic pablum shows his attitude toward the War on Terror. He uses passive language to sugarcoat the truth and avoid any reference to evil. Which has been his entire administration's attitude toward terrorism from day one.

5. Over the weekend, the Pennsylvania Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Joe Sestak, reiterated that the Obama Administration offered him an administration job in exchange for him dropping his primary campaign against preferred White House candidate Arlen Specter. This is a bribe, pure and simple. It's a violation of federal law. There should be an investigation to find out who was behind this bribe and whether Obama was involved. Anyone taking bets on whether The Most Ethical Congress in History is going to open investigations into alleged wrongdoing by The Most Transparent Administration in History?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Now it's "controversial" to make decisions about a business that you own?

Suppose, for just a moment, that General Motors makes a strange business agreement with Toyota. GM pays Toyota a large sum of money, and in exchange, GM controls the business decisions of Toyota. However, Toyota is still owned by the shareholders of Toyota. GM can now decide who Toyota may hire and what criteria may be used in Toyota's hiring decisions. GM gets to decide how much money its executives may earn. GM also has the right to fix any cases of "discriminatory underrepresentation" of minorities in management positions. GM has the power to set minimum wages at Toyota (even though some candidates for jobs may be willing to work for less) and to mandate that Toyota pay a higher wage to employees who work more than 40 hours in a week.

With all the power that GM has over Toyota, you might argue that GM actually owns Toyota, even though the original agreement says otherwise. Now, substitute "the US government" for "GM" and "privately-owned American businesses" for "Toyota", and you get the situation faced by businesses in the US today.*

US Senate candidate Rand Paul from Kentucky made a similar argument on The Rachel Maddow Show on May 19. (Video and transcript here.) On this show, Maddow asked Paul to clarify some of his previous statements regarding the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Paul has criticized parts of the 1964 act which place mandates on private businesses, while praising the other sections which place restrictions only on public institutions. Paul framed his argument in terms of personal liberty and property rights. In a nutshell, the owners of private businesses should be free to use their property as they see fit, as this is the essence of ownership.

MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?

PAUL: Yes. I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But I think what's important about this debate is not written into any specific "gotcha" on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it. I think the problem with this debate is by getting muddled down into it, the implication is somehow that I would approve of any racism or discrimination, and I don't in any form or fashion.

I love this answer. I also find racism aborrhent, and I choose not to associate myself with racists. However, freedom includes the right to be an offensive jerk. And everyone is an offensive jerk in somebody's eyes. Paul gave kind of a long and roundabout answer, but he's a politician. If he had not gone to great lengths to explain himself, then his ideas would be distorted by the press even more than they have already.

Maddow's reply to Paul is just plain silly.

MADDOW: But isn't being in favor of civil rights but against the Civil Rights Act a little like saying you're against high cholesterol but you're in favor of fried cheese?**

This is a logical fallacy that many people fall for. (Or maybe they know better, but they just try to score political points by using it.) It is only inconsistent to support civil rights while opposing parts of the Civil Rights Act if those parts actually deal with civil rights. For the record, I am strongly in favor of fried cheese.

*All right, the analogy breaks down at a few points. For one, the federal government does not pay privately-owned businesses for their rights. It just takes their rights by force.

**Wait a second. This argument sounds ... somehow ... familiar for some reason -- almost as if I have heard it before. You know...being personally opposed to something but wanting it to remain legal. Where have I heard this? Maybe I'm confused. Yeah, probably.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Super Tuesday" Primary Today

It's a pretty big primary election day today in several parts of the country. Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have some important, closely-watched Senate primaries, and there is also a key special election for the U.S. Congress in the 12th district of Pennsylvania. Since I'm a political junkie, I can't help but give my predictions, for what they're worth:

1. Arkansas Senate Democratic Primary -- Incumbent Blanche Lincoln will (barely) get the most votes but will fall short of 50%, meaning she goes into a runoff with her top challenger Bill Halter. I'll say Lincoln gets around 48% and Halter around 46% or so, with a third candidate pulling about 5 or 6%. A runoff will weaken both candidates in the general election, so I'm all for that.

2. Arkansas Senate Republican Primary -- John Boozman will (barely) get more than 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. Again, good news for the GOP.

3. Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Primary -- Joe Sestak, once far behind incumbent Arlen Specter in the polls, should beat Specter today. Although the most recent polls showed a dead heat race, Sestak has the momentum and I don't think Specter's supporters are energized enough to turn out for him in large numbers. In fact, I expect Sestak will win by at least 5, and maybe as much as 10 points. This is bad news for the GOP, as Sestak in my opinion will be a more formidable general election candidate. But I can't say I'm sorry to see a corrupt, opportunistic turncoat like Specter go.

4. Kentucky Senate Republican Primary -- Every poll is showing a big lead for Rand Paul (son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul), and I see no reason to believe it won't translate into a big win on election night. I largely agree with conventional wisdom that Paul will have a harder time winning a general election in Kentucky than his primary opponent Trey Grayson because of Paul's libertarian leanings. But on the other hand, Paul's anti-government, anti-spending, anti-Washington message will probably never be more in tune with the public's mood than in 2010. His path to victory will probably be a bit more challenging than Grayson's, but I still think his odds of winning against the Democrats are better than even.

5. Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary -- Moderate Democrat Daniel Mongiardo has led most of the way but at the end the more liberal Jack Conway has been closing in thanks to a large cash advantage and an advertising blitz. I am predicting a narrow Conway victory tonight. The Democratic establishment is supporting Conway and believes he is the more electable candidate in November, but I'm not so sure I share conventional wisdom. Conway's liberalism -- including his support for health care reform -- may not play so well in this conservative state where Obama is very unpopular. Conway may be well-funded and disciplined on the campaign trail, but he will be easy to tie to Obama and Pelosi and may help Paul consolidate his Republican establishment base effectively. I would prefer Mongiardo to win because I dislike Conway's liberalism and nasty campaign style, but a Conway win might actually be better for the GOP's prospects here in the fall.

6. Pennsylvania District 12 House Race -- Every indication is that this race is very tight, and special elections are notoriously hard to predict anyway. I have gone back and forth on this race, but in the end I think Democrat Mark Critz is going to beat Republican Tim Burns by a couple of points. This is a hard race for Burns to win because the district has twice as many Democrats as Republicans. Yes, I know that many of those Democrats are fairly conservative and I know that McCain won a very narrow victory over Obama here. Yes, I know Obama and his agenda are very unpopular in the district right now. But Obama is not on the ballot. Critz is, and he has very carefully positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes the health care bill and cap-and-trade, as well as being pro-life and pro-gun. Democrats also have an advantage in this race that they will not have in November. The election is the same day as the primary, and the Democrats have a competitive Senate race while the Republicans do not. This will likely draw a lot of Democrats to the polls and will counteract the enthusiasm advantage the Republicans have. In the end, despite Obama's unpopularity, enough conservative Democrats in the district will choose a (supposedly) conservative Democrat over a conservative Republican to give Critz the win. Burns ran a great race, and even if he loses he may have a better chance of winning in November. A Democratic win here does not mean that Republicans will not do very well in the fall, but a Republican win here is a very bad sign for Democrats going into the fall elections. I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Democrats win this race.

In a few hours, we'll find out whether I know what I'm talking about....

Friday, May 14, 2010

The U.S. Senate Outlook, Six Months Out

With about six months to go until Election 2010, political junkies like me are already paying attention to how the races are shaping up. Here is my race-by-race analysis of the battle for the U.S. Senate. A ranking of "Safe" means that the race is in the bag for one party or the other. A ranking of "Likely" means that the race is not competitive but has good potential to become competitive before Election Day. A ranking of "Leans" means that the race is competitive but one party has the advantage. A ranking of "Tossup" means that the race is highly competitive and neither party seems to have an advantage.

1. Alabama. GOP incumbent Richard Shelby is all but guaranteed re-election. Safe Republican.

2. Alaska. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is facing no significant Democratic opposition. Safe Republican.

3. Arizona. 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain is facing a tough primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth, a very conservative former congressman. Although McCain has antagonized his conservative base many times during his political career, he seems to be holding his own pretty well so far in this primary race. Polls show him ahead, but it's unclear by how much. If McCain is the nominee, this race is a certain Republican win against a fairly weak Democratic opponent. If Hayworth is the nominee, I think the Republicans will have a much harder time holding this seat (although I still think he would be favored in the current political environment). Likely Republican (that ranking will change to Leans Republican - or even Tossup - if Hayworth wins and Safe Republican if McCain wins).

4. Arkansas. Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln is probably the most imperiled Senate incumbent running for re-election this year. She has trailed by a significant margin in every recent poll, and her job approval ratings are abysmal. She first has to get past a well-funded primary challenger running to her left, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Then, she will likely face one of two top-tier Republicans: Congressman John Boozman or State Senator Gilbert Baker. Neither Lincoln's chances or Halter's chances look great in the general election, given the deep unpopularity in the state of President Obama and the health care reform bill (which both Lincoln and Halter supported). Leans Republican.

5. California.
Liberal Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer generally has no trouble getting re-elected in this heavily Democratic state. But this year, she seems unusually vulnerable. Her unfavorability ratings are very high, and a couple of recent polls showed well under 50% and in a virtual tie with two potential GOP opponents, Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina. I still give Boxer the advantage, given the state's ideological leanings, Obama's relative popularity here, and the huge amount of cash she has on hand. But this is a winnable race for Republicans. Campbell is probably the most moderate of the Republicans in the primary race, but Fiorina has access to lots of cash. Leans Democratic.

6. Colorado.
The incumbent in this race, Democrat Michael Bennet, was appointed as a replacement to Ken Salazar, who is now working in the Obama Administration. Bennet is facing a primary challenge from the speaker of the Colorado House, Andrew Romanoff. Jane Norton is considered the frontrunner in the GOP primary, but she is facing two other top-tier Republicans, including Ken Buck, a favorite of conservatives. Although President Obama carried Colorado by a big margin in 2008, he is now quite unpopular here, with a full 60% of voters favoring repeal of ObamaCare. Polls indicate a close race, but unless Obama's numbers improve it will be a tough race for Democrats to win. Tossup.

7. Connecticut.
Originally, this race was thought to be an excellent pickup opportunity for Republicans, with ethically-challenged Democratic incumbent Chris Dodd polling very poorly. Then Dodd decided to retire, and the state's extremely popular Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, jumped in the race. Conventional wisdom said Blumenthal was certain to win easily and keep the seat in Democratic hands. Yet, so far, Blumenthal has run a weak, gaffe-prone campaign that has given the GOP hope again. The Republican primary race is between moderate former congressman Robert Simmons and the founder of WWF Linda McMahon. While Simmons seems like a good fit for the liberal-leaning state, McMahon is willing to pour an almost unlimited amount of her personal fortune into the race. Obama is significantly more popular here than in the country at large, which works to Blumenthal's advantage. Likely Democratic.

8. Delaware.
This Senate seat became vacant when Joe Biden became Vice-President, and was filled by an appointed Democratic replacement who is not running this year. The likely general election matchup is between the state's long-time GOP congressman, Michael Castle, and local Democratic official Chris Coons. (Vice-President Biden's son, Beau Biden, was originally expected to run for this seat, but later changed his mind and declined to run.) Castle compiled a very moderate voting record while in Congress (he is currently the most liberal GOP member of the House), and is extremely popular in this Democratic state. Although Democrats believe Coons is a strong candidate, he is badly trailing Castle in the polls right now. Leans Republican.

9. Florida.
This race has been getting a lot of attention recently, with GOP Governor Charlie Crist dropping out of a Republican primary he was certain to lose and announcing he will run for the Senate as an independent. This sets up a three-way race between Republican Marco Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek, and Independent Charlie Crist. All this action has happened just in the past couple of weeks, meaning that it is too soon to say how Crist's independent bid will impact the race. Many observers believe that Crist will not be able to win, citing the state's relatively small percentage of unaffiliated voters (less than 20%) and possible problems raising money. Crist's party-switch seems rather blatantly opportunistic, which could also hurt him. At first glance it seems that having two Republican-affiliated candidates in a three-way race would give Democrat Kendrick Meek an excellent shot at winning. However, Crist was polling at 30% or below in the GOP primary before switching parties, so my guess is that he will probably not steal very many Republican votes from Rubio in the end. In the end, I think Rubio will be able to win a three-way race, given Florida's conservative tilt, Obama's state-wide unpopularity, and Rubio's exceptional abilities as a candidate. But I expect a competitive race. Leans Republican.

10. Georgia. Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson looked for awhile as though he would cruise with no significant Democratic opposition, but the state's Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond recently jumped into the race. Some observers think this race has the potential to be competitive, but I don't think so. Thurmond is a decent candidate, but he cannot win in a Republican-leaning state, in a Republican-leaning year, against a reasonably popular Republican incumbent. Safe Republican.

11. Hawaii. Octogenarian Daniel Inouye has represented Hawaii in the U.S. Senate since it achieved statehood. He has this seat for as long as he wants it. Safe Democratic.

12. Idaho. Senator Michael Crapo is virtually unopposed. Safe Republican.

13. Illinois. You'd think that if there were any seat that should be safe for the Democrats, it would Barack Obama's old Senate seat in Democratic-leaning Illinois. Not so. Obama's interim replacement is not running for re-election, and Republican Mark Kirk is looking surprisingly strong against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in this open seat race. Kirk is a moderate-to-liberal Republican who represented a Democratic-leaning suburban Chicago district for a number of years and who seems to have substantial appeal to independents and moderate Democrats. He has also been very effective at raising money thus far. Illinois voters are already fed up with the scandals of the Democratic party in the state (remember Rod Blagojevich?) and Giannoulias has plenty of baggage himself. Besides ties to the ethically-challenged Democratic machine in Chicago, Giannoulias's family-owned bank recently went bankrupt. Working in Giannoulias's favor are the state's Democratic tilt and the fact that Obama will likely pull out all the stops to hold this seat. Leans Republican.

14. Indiana. This is not a good year to run as a Democrat in Indiana. The state, which has trended toward Democrats the last couple of election cycles, is now swingly sharply back toward the GOP. Both Obama's disapproval rating and opposition to ObamaCare are currently at 60% or higher, and Democrat Brad Ellsworth is paying the price for voting in favor of the health care bill. Recent polls have shown Ellsworth trailing Republican nominee and former senator Dan Coats by 15-20 points. Coats has some baggage (he has been living outside of the state and doing lobbying work in Washington, DC for the past 10 years) and is doubtless a little rusty on the campaign trail (his last campaign was 1992). In a year less favorable to the GOP, the moderate Ellsworth would be even money or better to win. In 2010, Coats has a definite advantage. Leans Republican.

15. Iowa. Some political pundits believe Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is vulnerable. True, Iowa did go heavily for Obama in 2008, and Grassley's likely Democratic opponent Roxanne Conlin has raised plenty of cash. And Grassley's early attempts to work out a compromise on the health care legislation did not endear him to the conservative wing of his party. But Grassley has proved himself to be very effective at winning elections in a state which often trends Democratic, and since he was first elected in the early 1980's he has built up enough popularity and goodwill to consistently roll up sizable victory margins in both favorable and unfavorable political climates. It's not inconceivable that even a fixture like Grassley could lose a future election in such a polarized political environment, but it won't be in a year as favorable to the GOP as 2010 is likely to be. Safe Republican.

16. Kansas. The real battle for this Senate seat is in the GOP primary, where two Republican congressmen, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt, are squaring off against each other. Moran is the frontrunner but Tiahrt is especially popular among social conservatives in the state. Either candidate is expected to win pretty easily in this Republican state over relatively token Democratic opposition. Safe Republican.

17. Kentucky. This race to fill the seat of retiring conservative firebrand Jim Bunning is one of the most interesting of the cycle, with highly competitive primaries on both sides of the aisle. Since we don't yet know who the party nominees will be, it's a little hard to predict the likely outcome. On the Republican side, Rand Paul, the son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, is squaring off against establishment candidate Trey Grayson. While most observers believe Paul's libertarian-leaning, non-traditional GOP views will make him a weaker candidate in the general election, every public poll has shown him with a double-digit lead over Grayson. On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo is competing against Attorney General Jack Conway. Mongiardo is positioning himself as a centrist and has led in polls, although Conway has been closing the gap. While Paul may have trouble winning over some traditional Republican constituencies, his anti-spending message may have particular resonance this election cycle, and it will be challenging for any Democrat to win in a state where Obama's approval rating is in the 30's. Still, the race is very fluid at the moment. Tossup.

18. Louisiana. The Republicans are in much better shape in this race than anyone would have imagined a year or two ago. When news came out a couple of years ago that conservative Senator David Vitter was involved with a prostitute, most people assumed his career was over. Sex scandals are usually the kiss of death for politicians, especially conservative ones. But Vitter was apparently able to mitigate the damage somewhat by confessing to his wife before the news became public and by working to repair his marriage, and he now seems to be in relatively good shape to be re-elected. Vitter's Democratic opponent, Charlie Melancon, is a moderate who voted against the health care bill in the House. However, he doesn't seem to be getting much traction and is running well behind in polls. Obama's deep unpopularity in this Deep South state doesn't help. Likely Republican.

19. Maryland. No one is going to beat long-time Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski. Safe Democratic.

20. Missouri. This open seat race to replace retiring Republican Kit Bond is pretty well-defined, as GOP Congressman Roy Blunt and Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan have been the presumptive nominees of their respective parties for months. Missouri has a recent history of highly competitive Senate races, and this one seems to be no exception. Both candidates come from well-known political families and have raised plenty of cash. However, recent polls have shown Blunt with an advantage, and it seems likely that Obama's unpopularity here will hurt Carnahan. Even in 2008, a year with record black turnout, Obama was unable to carry the state; 2010 will be much more favorable to the GOP. Leans Republican.

21. Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, is in the fight of his political life. For months, polls have been showing Reid hovering at 40% of the vote or below and badly trailing several lesser-known GOP challengers -- not a good place for a 24-year incumbent to be. Reid's partisan tactics (especially in regard to the health care bill) and numerous recent controversial comments have contributed to his unpopularity in this swing state. Another factor working against Reid is Obama's unpopularity in the state, fueled by the state's double-digit unemployment and highest-in-the-nation home foreclosure rate. If there is a silver lining for Reid, it is the fact that his GOP challengers are relatively weak, comparatively under-funded, and facing a divisive, resource-sapping primary fight. Sue Lowden appears to be the frontrunner, but her gaffes have opened the door to other candidates. Leans Republican.

22. New Hampshire. This New England state, once solidly Republican, has been trending Democratic over the past decade, so when Republican Senator Judd Gregg decided to retire, Democrats saw a prime pickup opportunity. However, Obama's political fortunes have dramatically declined here since he dominated the state in Election 2008, and Republicans now look well-positioned to hold this seat and also possibly pick up both the state's House seats as well. Likely Democratic nominee Paul Hodes is taking heat for supporting the health care bill and is badly trailing the GOP frontrunner Kelly Ayotte, the state's former attorney general. But Ayotte first has to win a crowded primary against several other tough candidates Leans Republican.

23. New York, Seat 1. Left-wing crusader Charles Schumer remains quite popular in New York and has only token Republican opposition. Safe Democratic.

24. New York, Seat 2. This election is to fill the remainder of Hillary Clinton's Senate term. The incumbent is Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the seat by the state's governor last year. Since Gillibrand has never before been elected, her name recognition is much weaker than a typical incumbent, and her re-elect polling numbers have been consistently under 50%, indicating vulnerability. Unfortunately, the Republican party has been unable to find a top-tier candidate to run against her. The current crop of challengers is weak and underfunded. Safe Democratic.

25. North Carolina. Democrats see this race as probably their best opportunity to pick off a GOP incumbent in 2010. Republican Richard Burr is running for re-election for the first time, and his approval numbers have been unimpressive, largely due to the low profile he has kept during his first term (a large number of voters have no opinion of him, unusual for an incumbent). Democrats have two candidates involved in next month's primary runoff -- Cal Cunningham, the favorite of the national party establishment, and Elaine Marshall, who finished first in last week's primary. Some polls have shown Burr comfortably ahead, while others have shown him running neck-and-neck with his Democratic opponents. Although North Carolina did narrowly support Obama in 2008, it remains a fairly conservative state. It's hard for me to see an incumbent Republican losing here in a Republican year, apart from a major scandal or misstep. Likely Republican.

26. North Dakota. When long-time Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan decided to retire, Democrats knew they were in trouble. And when the state's popular Republican governor John Hoeven officially announced his candidacy, Democrats essentially conceded the race. A recent poll showed Hoeven clinging to 45 point lead over some Democratic sacrificial lamb. Safe Republican.

27. Ohio. In my opinion, this seat will be the hardest seat for the GOP to hold on to this election cycle. Obama is not particularly popular here, a state that has been hit hard by the economic downturn, and the unopposed Republican nominee Rob Portman looked strong in early polling. But Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher has succeeded in dispatching his Democratic rival in the primary last week while simultaneously erasing his polling deficit against Portman. The GOP still has a big financial advantage and the national political winds blowing in their favor, but numerous scandals have badly damaged the Republican brand in this state and Portman's ties to the Bush administration may not work in his favor. Tossup.

28. Oklahoma. Voters in Oklahoma recognize a gem when they see one. Tom Coburn is a tireless crusader against wasteful spending and corruption, and he is unopposed. Safe Republican.

29. Oregon. Popular Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is expected to cruise in a state where Obama remains relatively popular. Safe Democratic.

30. Pennsylvania. Last year, long-term liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party to avoid a primary race against conservative Pat Toomey he was likely to lose. Unfortunately for him, he is now facing a tough Democratic primary he is also likely to lose. Democrat Joe Sestak is effectively branding Specter as a turncoat and political opportunist and pointing out his past transgressions against liberal orthodoxy, and he has now pulled even with or slightly ahead of the incumbent in the polls. Polls are indicating a close general election race between Toomey and either Democrat. While some observers argue Toomey is too conservative for Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, he has raised a lot of money and has the political winds at his back this year in a state where Obama is unpopular. Tossup.

31. South Carolina. Jim DeMint, one of the most outspoken conservatives in the U.S. Senate, is facing only token Democratic opposition. Safe Republican.

32. South Dakota. Six years ago, Republican John Thune won a nailbiter over sitting Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. This year, Thune is completely unopposed. Safe Republican.

33. Utah. Senator Robert Bennett became the first Senate casualty of the 2010 election cycle last week, losing on the second ballot at the Republican nominating convention. GOP delegates were fired up and angry over the direction of the country and viewed Bennett as too conciliatory toward Democrats, despite his relatively conservative voting record. The top two Republicans, Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, now go to a runoff. The winner of this runoff is almost certain to be elected in this heavily Republican state. Safe Republican.

34. Vermont. Liberal Democrat Pat Leahy is as safe as he can be. Safe Democratic.

35. Washington. Three-term Democratic Senator Patty Murray is potentially vulnerable, especially if former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi jumps into the race. Polls show Rossi in a dead heat with the liberal incumbent, but since Rossi has waited this long he will likely choose not to run. Even so, the Republicans have a decent, if badly underfunded, candidate in Don Benton. Some polls have shown Murray under 50%, so there is a possibility this race could become competitive, given the toxic political environment to incumbents this cycle. Likely Democratic.

36. Wisconsin. Russ Feingold is another Democratic incumbent who is potentially vulnerable. Feingold is consistently polling under 50% and leads some unknown challengers by very underwhelming margins. While the Republicans didn't get the challenger they wanted (former Governor Tommy Thompson), there are at least a couple of candidates in the crowded primary that could prove formidable against Feingold, a senator who has never won with more than 56% of the vote. One advantage for Feingold is Wisconsin's very late primary (in mid-September), which means it will be a long time before the GOP will be able to unite behind one candidate. Likely Democratic.

To summarize: There are six Democratic-held seats that I now believe are leaning toward the Republicans. Two other Democrat-held seats are tossups, as are two Republican-held seats. Four additional Democratic-held seats are at least somewhat vulnerable to takeover, as are five additional Republican-held seats. In my opinion, the political environment is going to cause most of the close races to begin to tilt toward the GOP in the fall. Right now, I'm predicting a GOP pickup of 6-8 seats. A pickup of 9 seats is not out of the realm of possibility, but it would be VERY difficult for the Republicans to win the 10 seats needed to take control of the Senate. To do so the Republicans would have to win all of their own vulnerable seats and virtually run the table on all the vulnerable Democratic seats as well. That is hard to do even in a good year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tell me now, why is this bill "controversial"?

The intertubes are all abuzz with another "controversial" bill passed by the Arizona legislature. ("Controversial" has come to mean, simply, "offensive to the Left".) This bill, if passed into law, would prohibit courses in public schools which...
  • Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  • Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  • Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  • Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
After a little thought and reflection, I can see why this bill might be offensive. By censoring certain ideas from public schools, the schools would be promoting other subversive ideas, such as...um... respect for one's fellow man...and um...respect for our country and its laws? Um...yeah. I guess those ideas are really not subversive after all. My mistake. Sometimes I confuse respect and patriotism with resentment and armed revolution. It's one of my many eccentricities.

I have a few reservations about the other recent bill, but I wholeheartedly support this one. It is not the job of a teacher to pontificate on his anti-American political views to a captive audience of impressionable young students. Public schools should also emphasize our common heritage as Americans rather than pitting one racial or ethnic group against another.

"Shocked and Appalled"

Check out this column by Tony Blankley on why Americans should be "shocked and appalled."

The most eye-opening part of this article was the quote from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office regarding the Obama Administration's 10-year budget (which Blankley calls "the most irresponsible federal document ever released"):

"The federal budget is on an unsustainable path -- meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.... Rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly.... Large budget deficits would reduce national saving, leading to more borrowing from abroad and less domestic investment, which in turn would depress income growth.... The accumulation of debt would seriously harm the economy. Alternatively, if spending grew as projected and taxes were raised in tandem, tax rates would have to reach levels never seen in the United States (the highest marginal income tax rate so far: 94 percent, in 1944-45). High tax rates would slow the growth of the economy, making the spending burden harder to bear."

Put another way, we're on track to become the next Greece.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Apparently, the American Flag Is Incendiary

This story was pretty shocking to me. Five students were sent home from school at a California high school for wearing t-shirts with the American flag on them. Their crime? Celebrating America on Cinco de Mayo. As school administrators put it, wearing the American flag was "incendiary" and "disrespectful" on "Mexican Heritage Day." Take a look here and here.

Forgive me for asking, but what is disrespectful or incendiary or racially divisive about the American flag? Aren't we all Americans and don't we all supposedly love this country, whatever our ethnic background? Why would Mexican-AMERICANS be offended by someone wearing the American flag? At least one of the boys, Matthew Dariano, was actually part Hispanic. His mother said, "There will be no apology." Good for her. No American should ever have to apologize for respectfully displaying the American flag on American soil.

I am sick of Americans who seem to hate their own country and think we need to apologize for who we are. And I am sick of the ethnic identity politics that divides us along racial lines. Whether white, black, Latino, Asian, or Arabic, all Americans should share a common commitment to our country, our flag, and our ideals of liberty and justice for all. If you don't like America and you don't respect our flag and our ideals, you should shut up or leave. Or don't come here in the first place.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Smell of Our Fear

Another great column by Ralph Peters in the New York Post about our government's embarrassingly submissive response to Islamic terrorism. He's right, of course. Appeasement does not work against terrorism. Just for once, I'd like to see Obama show angry determination about something other than Arizona's immigration law or Fox News.

Watch Out for Those Right-Wing Christian Terrorists!

So, a bomb almost went off in New York's Times Square last week. Word quickly came out that the person of interest in the attack was a naturalized American citizen originally from Pakistan who had just returned after spending five months there. What was the reaction of the chattering classes?

--New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the identity of the bomber: "If I had to guess twenty-five cents..., homegrown maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." Ah yes, because opponents of the health care bill are in the habit of blowing up cars and buildings.

--New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler gives his expert opinion as well: "Whether the guy who did this, or the people who did this were with some Islamic terrorist group or whether they were some right-wing nut group or whether they were by themselves, in one sense it doesn't matter." Of course not. Islamic terrorists, Republicans, the Christian Right -- they're all the same!

--MSNBC terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann: "The potential culprits -- it's a wide range, I think it's fair to say that the presumption is that it's more likely to be a homegrown group. Whether it's Al-Qaeda group, a right-wing group, whether it's somebody else." Hmmm...like maybe a left-wing group?

--MSNBC's Contessa Brewer on Stephanie Miller's radio show: "There was part of me that was hoping this was not going to be anybody with ties to any kind of Islamic country.... There a lot of people who want to use terrorist intent to justify writing off people who believe in a certain way or come from certain countries or whose skin color is a certain way. I mean they use it as justification for really outdated bigotry." If only the bomber were a right-wing Christian, it would be very politically useful....

--On the O'Reilly Factor last night, O'Reilly asked liberal radio talk show host Alan Colmes about why Obama refuses to call this bombing an act of Islamic terrorism. Colmes countered by saying, "Wait a minute. We have a Christian militia who said I'm going to throw rocks through Democratic office buildings. Should we define that as Christian terrorism." Now I'm finally getting it. Right-wing Christians and Islamic jihadists are all the same. Some wacky militia person talks about throwing rocks through a building, and Muslim jihadists have attempted four mass killings on U.S. soil just since September. Sounds like Christian and Islamic terrorists are both a serious threat!!!

--Mayor Bloomberg had some additional words of wisdom after it was proven that the Times Square bomber was, in fact, an Islamic terrorist: "I want to make clear that we will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers. All of us live in this city. And among any group, there's always a few bad apples." This warning is clearly necessary due to the meteoric rise in violence against Muslims in the U.S. after previous terrorist attacks. Wait....there wasn't any. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg should be warning Muslims to stop killing American civilians?

Now, put these comments together with the Nazi and racism rhetoric of the left about the Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration and the Tea Party movement, and a disturbing picture is starting to emerge. Health care policy and government spending and illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism are serious policy concerns for our country, and it's important to be able to discuss them openly, honestly, and rationally. Unfortunately, that is becoming increasingly hard to do because the Left will not engage the Right on policy. All they want to do is yell "Racist"! They continue to falsely accuse Republicans of supporting the status quo on health care. They have no solution to the problem of illegal immigration and their only policy position on the issue is to claim Republicans are bigoted and racist against Mexicans. They make up racial incidents at Tea Party rallies out of thin air and then claim the entire movement is some kind of power play by white supremacists. They equate Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists, despite the fact that Christian fundamentalists don't commit acts of terrorism, and they immediately play politics with any terrorist attack by using it as an excuse to attack "homegrown right-wing nuts." And I'm not talking about Daily Kos and Moveon.org. I'm talking about columnists from major newspapers, anchors and senior reporters on cable news channels, and top elected politicians such as big city mayors and members of Congress in leadership positions.

And yes, I include the President of the United States in that category too. Because Obama himself uses the same inflammatory rhetoric. Obama himself was quoted in a new book by Jonathan Alter as calling members of the Tea Party "teabaggers," an insulting and obscene sexual reference. He told flagrant lies about the Arizona immigration law, claiming that if you were Hispanic you could be arrested "just for walking down the street to get ice cream." He and his administration refuse to even use terms like "Islamic terrorism" or "jihad" or "radical Islam" for fear of offending Muslims, but his Department of Homeland Security has specifically singled out "right-wing militia groups" and "anti-abortion activists" as threats to our country's security. He has personally attacked everyone from Cambridge, MA cops to Sarah Palin to Fox News, which is far below his dignity as President. (I challenge my readers to point out one time in which President Bush EVER personally attacked private citizens, elected officials, his presidential predecessors, or news organizations during his 8 years in office.)

The political climate today is the most polarized and angry I have ever seen it. And the Left is primarily to blame for that. They are following a scorched earth policy of ramming through an unpopular, hard-left agenda on purely partisan votes, and then, with help from their pals in the media, demonizing ordinary citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest and speak out. If you are against illegal immigration or government-run health care, or if you believe Islamic terrorism is a serious threat, or if you are sympathetic to Tea Party ideals of limited government, then the Democratic Party and the White House consider you a racist, a bigot, and a threat to America. Of course, conservatives are becoming more and more outraged at these unfair charges, which just serves to increase the temperature of the debate.

It is vital that we as conservatives channel our anger into making every effort to vote out the bums and elect principled conservatives to the House and the Senate this year (and then the Presidency in 2012). I don't think we can take another 6 years of Democratic control.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Arizona Must Live With

Check out this article by Mark Steyn. Steyn makes me laugh out loud, as always, but his larger point is both sad and true.